…. This week’s GAME OF THE CENTURY is in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. BobLee knows more about it than any 500 people you know; having trod the Land of Jesse James and Quantrill’s Raiders. The FOR REAL “sleeping giant” of college football has always been in Columbia MO. As Ol’ Roy will tell you, as a “college town” Lawrence KS definitely fills the bill. How did Mizzou and KU get exactly where Carolina is selling its institutional soul in hopes of maybe SOMEDAY getting to?
The Football Gods are every bit as cruel as their mythical counterparts on Mt Olympus. Delighting in tantalizing mere mortals with bright shiny geegaws … dangling trinkets just out of reach then jerking them away. Come 10 PM Saturday night the cavier wishes and champagne dreams of either Missouri or Kansas partisans will have been dashed on the craggy rocks of an unforgiving scoreboard. It will be “win and advance” for one and “blame the lousy refs” for the other.
Yes …. Big 12 refs, like ACC refs, SEC refs, Pac 10 refs, Big East refs, MAC refs, ConfUSA refs, and probably WAC refs too are “the sorriest refs” in the country ….. just ask Mike Leach. Yawn!
Late November and the Kansas Jayhawks are undefeated (and it’s Football!). That statement is as ridiculous as the concept that a nerdy little haberdasher from Independence MO could ever defeat Thomas Dewey for President. But Harry “gave’em hell” and the Jayhawks ARE #2 in the freakin’ nation …. with none other than their blood rival from 200 miles to the east standing twixt them and unimaginable BCS glory. The total incredulousness of the circumstance is why despite all the NCAA bureaucratic crap and weekly upsets ….. the all-seeing sports eye of America will indeed focus on Arrowhead Stadium this Saturday night at 7 PM.
In the “Everybody Has A Choo Choo” Room at the Old BMOC Home an improbable group of guys will gather with gimpy knees and oft-told tales of by gone glory to watch this week’s GAME OF THE CENTURY ….. isn’t that Paul Cristman over there by Gale Sayers? There’s John Riggins next to Kellen Winslow …. And Roger Wehrli chatting with Nolan Cromwell. There’s Pepper Rogers giving Dan Devine “the peace sign” in 1969 and Dan giving back half of it.
For over 100 years these two public institutions in neighboring states have called each other derogatory names and insulted each others’ mammas and taken cheapshots in pile-ups ….. but outside of a 200 mile radius of Don Hall’s greeting card store in Kansas City not too many sports fans in the other 48 states gave a damn. Kinda like a Carolina v NC State backyard feud, although this one has more elements of a Tar Heels v Gamecocks border rivalry. If UNC and USC were ever both in the Top Five!
That’s what is so cool about “rivalry games”. The deeply committed fans of both schools don’t really care that nobody but them does care when these annual “grudge matches” take place. …. Then somehow the stars and planets align and …. ESPN GameDay is moving in and Herby is interviewing NASCAR’s Carl Edwards at Harpos and Chris is standing between the graves of Dr Naismith and Phog and wondering what the two hoop immortals must be thinking about these big football doin’s.
It’s not like Mizzou and KU have NEVER “been here and done this”. It was only forty years ago in 1969 that the Jayhawks met a very young Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions in the Orange Bowl. Twelve Jayhawks lined up to stop a last second Penn State game-winning extra point and did …. but did not when they had to do it again after the penalty. Ironically, it was just the next year (1970) that quirky Dan Devine (ably assisted by a future Internet Legend!) met that same young Joe Paterno in the same Orange Bowl and came up just short. ….. then both schools disappeared into college football purgatory for the same 40 years that Moses and the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. …. A wilderness referred to by the arrogant glitterati on the east and west coast as “fly-over country”. Gameday producers and Heisman voters and SI et al “flew over” the hapless gridders along I-70.
Four decades as “sure W” hors d’oevers for the juggernauts at Nebraska and Oklahoma and even Colorado; both programs shuffled thru assorted pseudo messiahs and whippy marketing slogans and dozens of 2-9s, 4-8s and the occasional 6-6 or 7-5. If Weedeater Bowls and Ft Worth Bowls are “high points” your bar is set knee high at best.
Quick, name any MU or KU FB coach of the past 30 years. Among the pantheon of “big name” coaches of the past 3 decades you will NOT find Al Onofrio (Carl Torbush), Mark Gottfried, Woody Widenhofer (John Bunting), Larry Smith, Terry Allen, Warren Powers, or Glen Mason. Nor until about 4-5 weeks ago would you have likely heard of Gary Pinkel or Mark Mangino. When your football coach’s notoriety is as “that really really fat coach NOT named Ralph Fridgen” you got an image issue.
If you think MU’s Gary Pinkel looks like Jim Grobe …. he does. Plus he also came out of a Ohio-based MAC school (Toledo). Not a rock star, just a darn good college football coach.
In the mayfly celebrity world of sports …. The Missouri Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks get center stage this Thanksgiving Saturday at the intersection of I-70 and I-270. It’s a good thing for 95% of college football. Those schools that really want to be successful but hesitate to sell their institutional souls to do it.
You all know I do so love debunking the “sleeping giant” crap that Little Cletus and his faux Tar Heel ilk spew out in their “ain’t never been out of my own backyard” ignorance. You want to talk “sleeping giant” ….
Imagine being the ONLY Division 1 school in your state and being 120 miles from two major metro areas. Combining the academic advantages of both a liberal arts AND a land grant curriculum (combining UNC and NCSU) …. A thriving Greek system. You are located in a “college town” with the usual sticky-floored beer bars, hippie baby boomer faculty, PLUS real world conveniences (aka Super Target and a Macaroni Grill).. A “very pretty 60,000 seat stadium” on the edge of a very pretty campus but still has plenty of festival parking. Faurot Field even has Double Jumbotrons !!! …. Yikes! …. Imagine being a fleet footed nasty boy from St Louis and seeing TWO Jumbos? Where do I sign up Coach Pinkel?
Mizzou even had a “Matt Doherty hire & fire”. Their Matt was a Quinn. Maybe you’ve heard of him.
Heck, Missouri even has a goofy campus “landmark” – The Columns – that every alum gets his picture taken in front of holding his infant children, hoping they will be Mizzou Tigers someday. Sound familiar. DUH! ….. OK, The Columns do not double as a water fountain.
Not enough for you? Yes, Mizzou even has toxic message boards populated by goggle-eyed board monkeys who hate “the idiot AD” and whine about their fat cats not setting their hair on fire at games. DUH some more.
And, in case you’ve forgotten …. The Golden Girls. Double Jumbos, sticky-floored beer bars, The Columns, a recruiting oasis …. and two dozen future Fox News info hotties poured into patent leather and spandex. ….
Yeah BobLee but what about Charles Kuralt? Bwahahaha …. “Philandering Chubby Charlie” would be a C-list whozit at MU. Their J-School spews out mainstream media celebs like Harvard spews out Fortune 500 CEOs. An esteemed UNC J-school luminary told me last month that “UNC has a good J-School …. but Missouri has a GREAT J-School.” “Better than UNC!”. Say it ain’t so Walter Spearman.
How about UNC’s James Taylor? …. Mizzou sees you a Brad Pitt and raises you a Sheryl Crow. …. Lasagna at The Rat? – Pizza at Shakespeare’s. But but but …. Ramses The Ram? – Truman The Tiger. …. and Truman even does the Touchdown push-ups. …. PLUS the MU ROTC guys fire a real cannon after every score. They’ll celebrate George Bush’s birthday in Carrboro before THAT ever happens in Kenan.
And 200 miles to the west, atop Mount Oread, sits another charming college town with a few basketball wins in its past. A bigger “Cameron Indoor” with nutzo students and a silly “Rock Chalk …..” cheer. Lawrence can’t be too bad since Ol’ Roy chose to stay there for 15 years while his alma mater suffered 8-20 and national scorn.
How ever many BB Ws The Blue Messiah racks up in Chapel Hill, the majority of his career Ws will have come in a brighter shade of blue in a building named for “a Legend named Allen” not Smith.
Speaking of Legends and “comes from” …. The State of Kansas produced two other BB coaches of note …. a fella named Smith and his Sancho Panza – “Gut”.
KU even boasts one of those “first / only ___” that nobody else cares about. KU’s Memorial Stadium is “the first stadium ever built on a college campus west of the Mississippi”. Woo Hoo ….
The ignorant loonies in the Sunflower State think North Carolina is just “Andy & Barney”. Their equally ignorant counterparts in the Tar Heel State think Kansas is just “Dorothy & Toto too”. Every fan base has its dumb bottom-feeders.
Talk about incredible irony …. This is the first time in its 100 year history that MU v KU has not been played on one of the two campuses. The Arrowhead deal is a 2-year deal like UNC v NCS had at BOA back in the late 90s ….. and like UNC – USC SHOULD have in the future. I do so hope they paint the end zones in MU – KU colors and not Cheeps red. George Toma do your thing!
Want more irony (Gawd, I do love coming up with this stuff!) …. Both Heisman hopeful QBs are from Texas. KU’s Todd Reesing is from Austin and Mizzou’s Chase Daniel is from Dallas’ Southlake Carroll powerhouse. Texas is the Big 12’s “Florida”. Since the Big 8 aligned with the old SWC, the “fly-over” schools have mined Texas high schools for top talent.
Is this a once-in-a-millenium thing for Mizzou and/or Kansas? Will Nebraska buy a rock star to restore Husker glory? Will Colorado use Boulder’s bohemian charms to retool to National prominence? Will K-State go back to being JuCo U? Who knows? Both Pinkel and “ …. not named Fridgen” have been cussed and maligned in very recent years by their respective hairball factions. Whichever one loses Saturday night will be maligned again. THAT is a given.
Whichever coach WINS on Saturday night can expect a quick call from Jimmy Sexton wanting to “do lunch” ASAP. That is also a given. Incidentally, Jimmy cancelled his lunch date w/ Jim Leavitt two L’s ago.
For those of you all constipated and thinking “Damn BobLee, if you like Mizzou so much why didn’t you go THERE?” I DID! …. for grad school and to work for quirky Dan Devine. I violate the #1 Rule of Internet Know-It-Alls. I actually know what I’m talking about. Yikes, what a concept. If that catches on a whole lot of websites will shut down really quick.